The Class

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Bantam Books, 1986 - Fiction - 560 pages
4 Reviews
From world-renowed author Erich Segal comes a powerful and moving saga of five extraordinary members of the Harvard class of 1958 and the women with whom their lives are intertwined. Their explosive story begins in a time of innocence and spans a turbulent quarter century, culminating in their dramatic twenty-five reunion at which they confront thier classmates--and the balance sheet of their own lives. Always at the center; amid the passion, laughter, and glory, stands Harvard--the symbol of who they are and who they will be. They were a generation who made the rules--then broke them--whose glittering successes, heartfelt tragedies, and unbridled ambitons would stun the world.

"Erich Segal's best."-- "Pittsburgh Press"

"First class entertainment."-- "Cosmopolitan."

"An absorbing page-turner."-- "Publisher's Weekly."

"A panoramic saga."-- "Philadelphia Inquirer"

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The Class’ by Erich Segal follows the life of five young graduates of ’58 batch of Harvard University culminating in their 25th college reunion. The five men hail from extremely diverse backgrounds ... Read full review

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About the author (1986)


May 12, 1983

My Harvard Twenty-fifth Reunion is next month and I am scared to death.

Scared to face all my successful classmates, walking back on paths of glory, while I have nothing to show for my life except a few gray hairs.

Today a heavy, red-bound book arrived that chronicles all the achievements of The Class of ''58. It really brought home my own sense of failure.

I stayed up half the night just staring at the faces of the guys who once were undergraduates with me, and now are senators and governors, world-famous scientists and pioneering doctors. Who knows which of them will end up on a podium in Stockholm? Or the White House lawn?

And what''s amazing is that some are still married to their first wives.

A few of the most glittering successes were close friends of mine. The roommate I once thought of as a fruitcake is the candidate likeliest to be our next Secretary of State. The future President of Harvard is a guy I used to lend my clothes to. Another, whom we barely noticed, has become the musical sensation of our age.

The bravest of them all laid down his life for something he believed in. His heroism humbles me.

And I return, resplendent in my disappointment.

I am the last Eliot of a great line to enter Harvard. My ancestors were all distinguished men. In war, in peace, in church, in science, and in education. As recently as 1948, my cousin Tom received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

But the brilliance of the family tradition has grown dim with me. I don''t even hold a candle to Jared Eliot (Class of 1703), the man who introduced rhubarb to America.

Yet I do have one tenuous connection with my noble forebears. They were diarists. My namesake, Reverend Andrew Eliot, ''37, while bravely tending his parishioners, kept a daily record--still extant--describing what the Revolutionary War was like during the siege of Boston in 1776.

The moment the city was liberated, he hurried to a meeting of the Harvard Board of Overseers to move that General George Washington be given an honorary doctorate.

His son inherited his pulpit and his pen, leaving a vivid account of America''s first days as a republic.

Naturally, there''s no comparison, but I''ve been keeping notebooks all my life as well. Maybe that''s the single remnant of my heritage. I''ve observed history around me, even if I didn''t make any of it.

Meanwhile, I''m still scared as hell.


We took the world as given. Cigarettes
Were twenty-several cents a pack, and gas
As much per gallon. Sex came wrapped in rubber
And veiled in supernatural scruples--call
Them chivalry....

Psychology was in the mind; abstract
Things grabbed us where we lived; the only life
Worth living was the private life, and--last,
Worst scandal in this characterization--
We did not know we were a generation.

They glanced at one another like tigers taking measure of a menacing new rival. But in this kind of jungle you could never be sure where the real danger lurked.

It was Monday, September 20, 1954. Eleven hundred sixty-two of the best and brightest young men in the world were lined up outside that monstrous Victorian Gothic structure known as Memorial Hall. To register as members of the future Harvard Class of ''58.

Running the sartorial spectrum from Brooks Brothers to hand-me-downs, they were variously impatient, terrified, blasť, and numb. Some had traveled thousands of miles, others a few blocks. Yet all knew that they were now merely at the beginning of the greatest journey of their lives.

Shadrach Tubman, son of the president of Liberia, flew from Monrovia via Paris to New York''s Idlewild Airport, whence he was driven to Boston in his Embassy''s limousine.

John D. Rockefeller, IV, unpretentiously took the train up from Manhattan and splurged on a taxi from South Station to the Yard.

Apparently the Aga Khan simply epiphanized. (Other rumors had it that he''d flown there on a magic carpet--or a private jet.) In any case, he stood in line waiting to register just like any mortal.

These freshmen had arrived already luminaries. They had been born directly into the limelight.

But on this last day of summer 1954, more than a thousand other potential comets were waiting to burst from dark anonymity to light up the sky.

Among them were Daniel Rossi, Jason Gilbert, Theodore Lambros, and Andrew Eliot. They--and a fifth, still half a world away--are the heroes of this story.


I thought the sparrow''s note from heaven,
Singing at dawn on the alder bough;
I brought him home, in his nest, at even;
He sings the song, but it cheers not now,
For I did not bring home the river and the sky.

From earliest childhood Danny Rossi had a single, desperate ambition--to please his father.

And one single haunting nightmare--that he never could.

At first he believed there was a legitimate reason for Dr. Rossi''s indifference. After all, Danny was the slender, unathletic brother of the toughest fullback in the history of Orange County, California. And all the time that Frank Rossi was scoring touchdowns and attracting college scouts, Dad was too involved with him to pay attention to his younger son.

The fact that Danny got good grades--which Frank never did--made no impression whatsoever. After all, his brother stood a mighty six feet two (a head taller than Danny), and his mere entrance on the field could bring a stadium of cheering people to their feet.

What could little bespectacled red-haired Danny do that earned applause? He was, or so his mother constantly reported, a gifted pianist. Almost a prodigy. This would have made most parents proud. And yet Dr. Rossi never once had come to hear him play in public.

Understandably, Danny felt enormous pangs of envy. And a resentment growing slowly into hatred. Frank is not a god, Dad. I''m a person, too. Sooner or later you''re going to notice me.

But then in 1950, Frank, a fighter pilot, was shot down in Korea. Now Danny''s pent-up jealousy transformed, in painful stages, first to grief and then to guilt. He somehow felt responsible. As if he''d wished his brother''s death.

At the ceremony in which they named the school athletic field for Frank, his father wept uncontrollably. Danny looked with anguish at the man he so admired. And he vowed to bring him consolation. Yet, how could he give his father joy?

Even hearing Danny practice annoyed Arthur Rossi. After all, a dentist''s busy day was orchestrated to the grating noise of drills. And so he had a cork-lined studio built in the cellar for his sole surviving son.

Danny understood this was no act of generosity, that his father wished to be freed from the sight as well as the sound of him.

Yet, Danny was determined to keep fighting for his father''s love. And he sensed sport was the only way for him to rise from the cellar of paternal disapproval.

There was just one possibility for a boy of his size--running. He went to see the track coach and asked shyly for advice.

He now got up at six each morning, slipped on sneakers, and left the house to train. His excessive zeal during those early weeks made his legs sore and heavy. But he persevered. And kept it all a secret. Till he had something worth telling Dad.

On the first day of spring, the coach made the entire squad run a mile to gauge their fitness. Danny was surprised that he could actually stay near the real runners for the first three quarters.

But suddenly his mouth was parched, his chest aflame. He started to slow down. From the center of the field he heard the coach call out, "Hang in there, Rossi. Don''t give up."

Fearing the displeasure of this surrogate father, Danny drove his weary body through the final lap. And threw himself, exhausted, onto the grass. Before he could catch his breath, the coach was standing above him with a stopwatch.

"Not bad, Danny. You sure surprised me--five minutes forty-eight seconds. If you stick with it, you can go a heck of a lot faster. In fact, five minutes can sometimes cop third place in our dual meets. Go to the supply desk and get a uniform and spikes."

Sensing the proximity of his goal, Danny temporarily abandoned afternoon piano practice to work out with the team. And that usually meant ten or twelve grueling quarter-miles. He threw up after nearly every session.

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